Jessica Heer, Senior Vice President of Talent Attraction + Leadership, dives deep into what makes the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Talent Attraction department vital to the Dallas Region and unique among its peers in economic development.
The Dallas Regional Chamber created the Talent Attraction department in response to a need to attract the best and brightest workers from across Texas, the United States, and the world, while retaining the talent already studying and working here. From all the available jobs to trendy, new restaurants that find success here, the region has so much to offer. Take a look at the team that showcases these offerings through our award-winning Say Yes to Dallas campaign.
“Say Yes to Dallas is so valuable to the Dallas Region. It serves as a platform for our member companies to elevate their company culture and their brand to a new and growing audience by marketing the Dallas Region as a great place to start or continue a career. Just as our members sell their companies to potential candidates, we help those companies recruit talent by highlighting all the benefits of living and working in the Dallas Region.”
Originally from upstate New York, Jessica calls Dallas her home because it’s a place where both her career and family can grow. Some of her favorite family spots include the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Dallas Arboretum, and LEGOLAND. Jessica’s favorite outdoor activity is taking a bike ride on Campion Trail in Irving.
“What makes me Say Yes to Dallas is the community here. The Dallas Region is so talent rich and everyone here is well connected. With the help of local influencers and community leaders who are building Dallas’ identity, it’s easy to brand the region as a place where people can thrive.”
Milton relocated from Michigan to Dallas because of all the job opportunities and Dallas’ growing marketing industry. On the weekends, he likes to listen to live music in Deep Ellum and relax near White Rock Lake. Milton takes advantage of Dallas’ central location by hopping on a plane for quick visits to see friends and family.
“One of the best things about the Dallas Region is the astounding volume of stories that started here – from people, businesses, communities, and more. Through social media, Say Yes to Dallas is able to highlight those stories that make the Dallas Region, while connecting with new people and businesses every day.”
Holly was born and raised in the Dallas Region, and chose to move back after graduating from Texas A&M University (whoop!) because of the opportunities available here. She likes to start each day with Starbucks and to spend lots of time at the Dallas Museum of Art. Holly’s favorite way to celebrate is with lots of confetti and good company.
“The tremendous availability of talent and diversity in the Dallas Region makes my job easy as the Say Yes team’s videographer. With so many things to do and see in the Dallas Region, I always have a way to grow – both creatively and professionally.”
From North Texas and Virginia, Jane actively pursued a life in Dallas because of its cosmopolitan lifestyle and enthusiastic business culture. A recent graduate of Southern Methodist University, Jane enjoys working with the Say Yes to Dallas campaign. During her time off, she explores the network of outdoor trails from Dallas to Fort Worth and teaches acrobatic yoga classes at NorthPark Center. Her favorite way to meet new people is lindy hop dancing at Sons of Hermann Hall, a historic music venue.
More than 350,000 working-age people in the Dallas Region qualify as having special needs. Among them, nearly 200,000 are not in the labor force.
In an economy with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation (roughly 3.4 percent), that’s an immense potential workforce that remains largely untapped. It’s the equivalent of four Amazon HQ2 workforces.
On Nov. 14, more than 60 industry and workforce leaders gathered at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Education to Employment Outlook series, which focused on how to align employers with the region’s special needs population. The event took place at the Dallas Regional Chamber.
“It’s a different era,” said Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas President and CEO Laurie Bouillion Larrea, who served as the discussion’s moderator. “Hiring special needs workers used to be about doing the right thing. Now, it’s about, ‘I can’t find my workforce. Where am I going to get my talent? So, doing the right thing, and doing the right thing for business, have suddenly collided.”
Larrea added that inclusion of diverse workers into the employment is borne from need. “Rosie the Riveter didn’t go to work because there wasn’t a need,” she said.
Larrea moderated a panel that included Deaf Action Center Executive Director Heather Hughes; Hiren C. Shukla, director of the Automation & Innovation Neuro-Diverse Centers of Excellence at EY; Tom Landis, founder/CEO of Howdy Homemade Ice Cream; and My Possibilities Executive Director Michael Thomas.
The panel’s consensus was that many employers still hold major misperceptions about what it takes to employ a special-needs workers, when actually, those individuals don’t require excessive expense or effort to incorporate into the workforce. And, once hired, those workers have stellar retention rates, performance records, and loyalty to their employers.
One of the biggest hurdles employers share in realizing when considering hiring special populations is looking at what they can’t do, rather than the potential workers hold.
Hughes referred to that hurdle as “deficit thinking.”
“We view ourselves as a linguistic subculture, so we don’t have an impairment,” said Hughes, through an interpreter. “For example, when I come into this room, I see my peers in the corner – they’re signing, communicating. And then I see the rest of you, as signing-impaired.”
Hughes added: “I think the deaf are often pushed aside, and hearing people who hear and speak English share the (deaf person’s) story, and the (deaf) perspective isn’t shown.”
Hughes said when Facetime arrived on the scene, the hearing-impaired population ran with it.
Thomas – whose organization works with adults age 18 and older whose IQs are below 80 – said hiring special populations shouldn’t be thought of as an act of charity, as much as it should be considered smart business.
Thomas said that often, highly paid, high-skilled professionals are tasked with repetitive tasks, such as stuffing folders, which can be done by less-skilled individuals, with greater accuracy.
He said for the past 15 years, a major bank is using a special-population workforce of 80 individuals in Dallas to stuff folders for bank customers, with little turnover. The practice is saving the bank millions of dollars annually, and they’re considering expanding the program to other cities, he said.
“It’s a little bit of dipping their toes in the water, and pushing past that fear, to get to the solution,” he said.
Shikula works with individuals who fall on the Asperger’s syndrome spectrum, or have been classified with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, etc. (referred to as “neuro-diverse”). He is part of EY’s initiative to help such employees reach their maximum human potential. Many of them work in artificial intelligence and other areas to help solve operational problems.
He said that one of his neuro-diverse workers noticed an operational problem and suggested a solution that turned out saving EY personnel an estimated 25,000 hours of labor.
“If we are smart enough to slow down, and listen the quietest people, to the softest voices … the power of what we’re hearing – it’s becoming a business imperative for us,” Shikula said. “This is becoming a talent pool that we need.”
A report by EY cites a Drexel University study, which found that more than half of all young adults with autism are unemployed. Roughly three-fourths of those surveyed said they wanted to work.
“This can lead to isolation, financial insecurity and social and economic dependence on family, government and community-based organizations,” the report says.
But the panelists maintained that companies shouldn’t hire special needs populations primarily out of humanitarian interests.
“Never hire someone for goosebumps or fist bumps,” said Howdy Homemade’s Landis. “Do it for sales bumps. Either you believe in the people, or you don’t.”
Landis said repetitive jobs are among the least desired in the workforce – but workers with special needs thrive doing those tasks. At the same time, he said, employers need to make sure that their special needs workers are well-rounded, and have lives outside of their jobs. He said that that’s why the Miami-based Best Buddies nonprofit was started – to help build friendships for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“They’re like robots – humans who will work 10-12 hours a day. They’re loyal. They have no social life. They’ve got nothing else going on. No one is paying attention to them. One of the things that really breaks my heart more than anything, is … I don’t think I’ve ever met a person with special needs, who has a friend,” Landis said.
During the discussion, Landis said if Dallas employers actively hire special needs workers, that decision can act as a tool to draw corporate relocations, such as Amazon’s HQ2.
“Amazon executives (and other employers) are going to go to places where people are going to pay attention to their employees,” Landis said. “We’re talking 50,000 employees with Amazon – 1.8 percent of them will have a child with special needs. That’s 600 (individuals with special needs). They’re going to look at what the City of Dallas and (Mayor) Mike Rawlings is going to do to help their kids.”
Corporate sponsors for the Education to Employment Outlook event were Oncor and Texas Instruments; event sponsors were Southwest Airlines, State Farm and UTA University Crossroads.
By Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Universities in North Texas produce half a billion dollars in research annually. Yet, the state primarily funds institutions of higher education based on enrollment, and the state is having trouble meeting funding needs to match the region’s exploding research growth.
Those universities have amassed more than $150 million in philanthropic dollars for research, and for more than a year, those dollars have remained unspent, awaiting matching funding from the Texas Legislature as part of the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP).
North Texas legislators told more than 80 leaders representing regional businesses, nonprofits, and Dallas Region higher education institutions that both issues stand in the way of the Dallas Region continuing its momentum and growth in higher education. The group gathered at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s second Education to Employment Outlook breakfast series on Sept. 10 to discuss higher education funding, policy, and the key issues for the upcoming legislative session. The 86th Texas Legislative Session begins Jan. 8, 2019.
“We need to recognize one size doesn’t fit all and to allow flexibility in that funding formula,” said event speaker Texas State Sen. Kelly Hancock, who serves as the co-chair of the Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education Formula Funding. “The status quo will never put us on a path to becoming a higher education force.”
Hancock added, “The goals and objectives [of institutions] are very different. One of the reasons UT Southwestern is penalized is because the current funding formula is based on enrollment growth. UT Southwestern isn’t looking for enrollment – they’re looking to lead the nation in research.”
Proponents for diversifying Texas higher education funding say that while schools such as UT Southwestern derive some benefit from enrollment-based funding, extra consideration should be directed to research-driven schools, where the primary focus rests on breakthroughs in medical science.
Aside from advocating for additional funding for rapidly growing schools in the region, the DRC and its education partners are also working with legislators to increasing funding to schools with enrollments with higher concentrations of first-generation and low-income students. Many institutions of higher education in the Dallas Region fit both profiles.
Both Hancock and Texas State Rep. Linda Koop of Dallas participated in the panel during the event. Koop addressed a question about TRIP funding.
“When you have philanthropists giving you tens of millions of dollars and they’re wanting to match, you know that all the money is there from the philanthropists. I think there’s $154 million sitting, waiting for its match [at the state]. Either get rid of the program, and say we’re not going to have it anymore – which I don’t think we all want – or fund the program.”
Koop added that if Dallas County continues along its current education path – aligning school districts, community colleges, and institutions of higher education with the business community – it can serve as a model for other regions in Texas.
“I think that you, in this room, have a perfect opportunity to do this, through the Dallas Regional Chamber,” she added.
Those comments by Koop and Hancock followed a presentation by DRC Managing Director of Higher Education & Workforce Elizabeth Caudill, who described the scope and impact of higher education in the Dallas Region.
“Our region has the most students enrolled in post-secondary education as well as the highest annual degree completion of any region in Texas,” she said. “The higher education community looks a lot like the business community in North Texas – outperforming other regions and growing rapidly.”
Among the stats she shared:
“Not only are we producing the most students in Texas, and preparing them at elite institutions… the DFW region is retaining students to live and work,” Caudill said. “The Dallas Region has the sixth highest retention rate in the United States for retaining college graduates with 72 percent of them staying in the region.”
High talent retention rates indicate the region’s universities are providing North Texas employers with the talent they need, she added.
Those interested in helping increase legislative awareness for the need to create greater flexibility in the State of Texas’ Higher Ed funding formula and/or to fund the state’s TRIP program should contact Caudill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Education to Employment Outlook series is presented by Texas Instruments and ONCOR. The higher education funding event was additionally sponsored by State Farm, Dallas County Community College District, and University of Texas at Arlington/University Crossroads.
The DRC is an active supporter and leader in the region for higher education issues and public policy.
By Avi Kahn
What would one of the top leaders of a multi-billion-dollar construction company (me) have in common with the students of Thomas C. Marsh Middle School in Dallas Independent School District?
Plenty, as it turns out.
I came to this realization while serving as Principal For A Day at Marsh, where, according to state data, 90 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged and more than half are learning English.
Even though I grew up in what would be considered an upper-middle-class household, there were seven of us kids. Our father is a lawyer who owned his own firm. But as with all employee-owned businesses, money sometimes got tight, and we had to compromise.
Everyone had to pitch in which strengthened our work ethic at a young age. I saw that same trait in the students at Marsh.
After meeting Martha Bujanda – Marsh’s principal – I immediately appreciated what she’s doing. Martha’s energy is contagious. The school buzzes with activity, and it seems like two people are waiting to speak with her at any given time.
Still, she took the time to share her day and thoughts with me while I was Principal For A Day, explaining that many of her students come from large families living in single-parent households of limited means. Discipline might not be consistent in their homes. So, she’s seeing to it that students are assigned tasks, giving them a sense of belonging and a shared purpose. She’s bringing in teachers who can motivate students, and introducing constructive work to their days. Most importantly, Principal Martha Bujanda is bringing optimism, a sense of urgency, and hope to kids who need it most.
After spending a day at Marsh, I felt tired, yet exhilarated. I also saw our cultural overlaps, and was determined to help Martha and her students as much as possible.
I’ve made it a point to speak to Marsh students on Career Day, and I’ve invited my colleagues at Hilti to do the same. Our Plano office recently hosted female Marsh students, allowing them to shadow our female engineers. Our goal is to give them firsthand knowledge that women are earning good, meaningful livelihoods in science-related fields. We want to empower them and highlight the fact that with continued hard work and focus, the sky is the limit. We also want to have a little fun and are planning to host the entire school at a Dallas Stars game this November.
Hilti has committed to making lasting impacts at Marsh. We’ve “adopted” a Marsh student, and we’re helping to mentor her, to prepare her for a professional future. We hope to take even more under our wings soon. We’re working to be a regular fixture at the school for Girls in Engineering Day, Career Day and other such events.
Where is this leading? What are we trying to accomplish with Marsh?
We know students can benefit from our corporate culture, which emphasizes both caring and performance, and we know that Martha will be a great partner along the way. We also know that it’s important for Hilti to help others where we can, when we can. We know that by exposing these students to our culture of excellence, we become part of something bigger than ourselves. We know that Dallas’ corporate citizens need to contribute more than just tax money. We need to put skin in the game, to personally become part of the city’s future success. That’s what we’re doing at Marsh.
And what more can anyone ask for, in the work of fulfilling our callings? I’d encourage other corporate leaders follow us in the Principal For A Day program, which is an initiative of the Dallas Regional Chamber. They can get involved by contacting the DRC’s staff at email@example.com. Orientation sessions are set for Sept. 25 and Oct. 4. This year, PFAD is Oct. 9. As more and more business professionals realize just how rewarding this program can be, we expect slots to fill up quickly. Registration is requested by Oct. 3. (Click here to get your username and password to register.)
Dallas ISD is moving professionals like Martha to places like Marsh, as part of a larger initiative to spark renewed excitement and engagement in public education. Efforts like these help improve overall academic performance and are made possible by continuing to invest in our children and their future through community support of school funding.
There will be a time when we look back upon where we spent our time and treasure in this life. Dallas ISD is giving us worthwhile opportunities to invest them in the future of our city.
Avi Kahn is president and CEO of Hilti North America, which employs 3,600 professionals and is part of a global provider of products, services and software for construction professionals.
Principal For A Day is a project of the Dallas Independent School District, in partnership with the Dallas Regional Chamber and Capital One Bank, that brings community leaders into schools across the district. Get your username and password to register.
By Dave Moore, Staff Writer
A crowd of about 300 gathered at the DRC’s State of Higher Education Luncheon, where they heard University of North Texas System Chancellor Lesa Roe describe her experience growing up as a first-generation college graduate, and the parallels between her former career as an electrical engineer at NASA and higher education.
“My mom was a switchboard operator,” said Roe, who took the helm at the UNT System last fall, overseeing the system’s operations, including its 10,000 employees. “My dad was in the military, and when he got out, he worked on airplanes and was a groundskeeper at a Veterans’ Administration hospital. I worked for as long as I can remember, pulling corn in my grandfather’s field in hot Florida – lord if that’s not a motivator – and PawPaw didn’t pay.”
In speaking to a sellout ballroom at the Westin Galleria, Roe said her father encouraged her to pursue a degree. Her mother, however, discouraged her from pursing higher education because she didn’t want her to be disappointed.
“I take that lesson with me today, because sometimes, your culture is so thick, so pervasive, that you don’t believe that you can get out of it,” Roe said. “You think that people who succeed are special, and you’re not. And you’re afraid to step out of the box, until you step out of it. The big part of me talking to all of you today, is to let our kids know that here in Dallas-Fort Worth, that they can step out of [the box]; they can create a new story for themselves.”
Roe said her story strongly applies to the lower economic population in Dallas County, to whom higher education might seem a distant dream.
“I also know what it’s like to have people tell you that you can’t, and what it’s like to decide for yourself,” she said. “If you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right. So for me, never define yourself as a victim, prove them wrong and keep moving. My college education equipped me for this.”
Roe, who worked for 30 years at NASA and helped create the International Space Station, said there are many commonalities between higher education and space exploration.
“The bulk of my professional experience has been in aeronautics and space, but I’m now applying that knowledge to higher education,” she said. “While my new colleagues might feel I’ve landed in this industry from another planet, there really are commonalities.”
Following Roe’s address, The Dallas Morning News business columnist Cheryl Hall moderated a roundtable discussion with UT-Dallas President Dr. Richard Benson, Dallas County Community College District Chancellor Dr. Joe May and Texas Rep. John Zerwas. The discussion primarily addressed the origins of those institutions of higher education, and the challenges and successes they’ve experienced.
“One of the biggest challenges is, how are we going to achieve our goal of 60 by 30 – getting 60 percent of the population some sort of post-secondary credential by 2030?” asked May, referring to the state’s higher education plan that aims to educate more than half a million individuals – ages 25-34 – with a certificate or degree by 2030.
“We’ve got to grow the degrees by 40,000,” he said. “How do we get people in the door, and how do we get people out, not just with any degree, but aligned with the job market, in the North Texas area? That means reaching deeper into the (population) pool.”
In discussing DCCCD’s origins and track record, May said his district is comprised of 14 instructional locations that serve 165,000 students per year, through credit and non-credit. He added that non-credit student enrollment has increased by 16,000. In 53 years, the district has educated more than 3 million students, May said.
Benson said one of the biggest challenges facing UTD is managing growth to keep up with the Dallas Region’s growing economy.
“This area is booming,” he said. “Seems like there’s always another company moving to the metroplex. Growth is difficult. We’ve probably doubled the student body in the last 14 or 15 years. That comes with substantial infrastructure needs.”
Along those lines, Benson said, one state initiative that’s helped his university, as well as the University of Texas-Arlington and the University of North Texas, is the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP).
“TRIP… has been a wonderful program,” he said. “If our universities can attract philanthropic investment and research, the state was willing to put in a match, up to one-to-one.”
The initiative, launched by former State Rep. Dan Branch, has led to roughly $80 million in additional state funding, matching the $100 million UTD has attracted, Benson said. That program, however, has taken a hit, due to budget constraints.
“Right now, our university has about $32 million in the queue, and we’d like to have $32 million, in the next session,” said Benson, directing his comment to Rep. Zerwas, who chairs the Texas House Appropriations Committee.
In reply, Zerwas said, “Higher education is oftentimes that pot of money we go to when we don’t have enough money. The research fund that Dr. Benson mentioned is just that. I said, ‘mea culpa’ on that. I and my counterpart, Sen. Nelson, though, didn’t want to do that. But we were faced with a flat budget. No new money.”
Zerwas said the state’s budget faces growing expenses from Medicaid, and Health and Human Services, which are approaching expenditure levels of public education.
“We put together a budget that’s balanced,” he said. “We can’t print the money like they do in Washington.”
Zerwas acknowledged that the state’s future rests in educating its population.
“We’re a state that has been described as a ‘Texas Miracle,’” he said. “We have a lot of oil and gas. And we have a strong dependency on it, and we’ve done well. But we’ve got to recognize that what the future holds for the state is the resource of its educated workforce. That’s what’s going to attract people to build their businesses and to raise their families.”
The 2018 State of Higher Education was presented by UNT System. Silver sponsors were Microsoft Corporation, The University of Texas at Arlington and The University of Texas at Dallas.
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